Improving dairy cattle welfare: promoting uptake of veterinary advice

Fund

Norman Hayward Fund

Grant

£109,816

Research Period

2014

Area of study

Cattle

Description

Investigators:  Dr Kristen Reyher and Alison Bard
Summary
Being a vet is not just about the science and methodology, it is also about how to communicate.  Implementing veterinary advice and treatments can be complicated, time consuming and expensive and delivering clear communications on this complex package is key to improving animal welfare.
This is of enormous importance in the food production industry where encouraging and training farmers to improve animal husbandry and adopt veterinary advice remains a critical challenge to improving animal welfare.
Veterinary advisors who can understand the farming context, who can clearly and compellingly communicate ideas and directions, and who can engage with farmers to implement beneficial practices are essential.
Similar challenges are faced by the medical profession which is increasingly employing a technique called Motivational Interviewing (MI), an evidence-based framework for promoting lifestyle changes to improve public health and community welfare.
Sociological research already undertaken has demonstrated that motivation underpins voluntary behavioural change and related research has shown that the attitudes of farmers serve as a better explanation and predictor of differences in mastitis incidence on farms than even the actual behaviour of these farmers.
This project will consider the applicability of MI to the veterinary profession, defining and evaluating possible methods for increasing the uptake of veterinary advisory recommendations.
How this will be done:
As a preliminary step, evaluation of communication skills and the application of MI to communication between dairy farmers, and both veterinary surgeons and farm assurance assessors, will be undertaken.
MI requires clear definition of the intended behavioural change – for veterinarians, this will be the implementation of actions identified through lameness or mastitis management programmes, and, for farm assurance assessors, agreement to seek veterinary advice on health problems identified. Pre-training interviews will establish communication baselines, and consultants who train medical professionals will assist in developing an MI training package for veterinary surgeons and farm assurance assessors.
The training package will be evaluated, improved, and made freely available, potentially resulting in application to other sectors of agriculture.
Watch a presentation by the researchers on this project at the 2017 AWF Discussion Forum here.